It’s the peak of flu season, but you can still protect yourself

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the flu bug. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the flu bug. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

MARBLE FALLS — The holiday season has come and gone, but another season is in full swing across the Highland Lakes, and it’s one you wouldn’t wish upon anybody.

It’s flu season.

“(It) usually peaks in January,” said Bob Harding, the Seton Highland Lakes emergency department medical director. “The peak flu season has occurred anywhere from late November through March.”

And it’s not just in the Highland Lakes. Christine Mann of the Texas Department of State Health Services described this year’s influenza as “widespread.”

“The intensity level is high,” she said. “Intensity level” refers to a high percentage of people who go to their doctor’s offices with flu-like symptoms. The exact number of people who contract the flu is unknown, but reports from physicians and medical offices across Texas put it at a high level.

“We’ve already had three pediatric deaths in Texas this year, which is, unfortunately, something that happens about every year in Texas,” Mann added.

The severity of the flu can vary from person to person, but those in certain categories could be bit harder by the bug including people with underlying medical conditions, the elderly and young children.

The best step against the flu is to get vaccinated. And even though it’s January, officials say it’s not too late.

“It is recommended everyone in the U.S. over the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccine,” Harding said. He said most of the reported cases of flu this year have been Influenza A (70 percent) and Influenza B (30 percent).

Mann and Harding said it takes about two weeks from the time a person receives a vaccine before it offers protection against the disease. Despite the flu appearing to peak in January, Mann said that even if a person hasn’t been vaccinated, it’s still a good idea to do it.

“The flu season can last into spring, so any level of protection is a good idea,” she added.

Other tips to curbing the spread of the flu and reducing your chances of getting it include common sense steps such as washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into the crook of your arm and staying home if you feel ill.

While allergies and the common cold are also major problems this time of year, Harding said a person with the flu often exhibits body aches and fatigue not always associated with the cold or allergies.

Other signs of the flu include fever (or feeling feverish/chills), a cough, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, a headache and fatigue.

“It’s important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever,” Harding added.

If a person feels any flu-like symptoms, Mann recommended he or she see a physician as soon as possible.

“At this time of the year, with the flu so widespread, it’s a good idea to get checked out,” she said.

And if you do have the flu, stay home from work or school as well as limit contact with other people, officials added.

daniel@thepicayune.com

FLU SYMPTOMS

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS

  • Get vaccinated
  • Wash hands often
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Cough or sneeze into crook of arm rather than hands
  • Stay home if you feel ill or limit contact with other people
  • See your doctor

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